Microsoft Ignite 2021 Fall edition brought a lot of announcements across Microsoft 365. Microsoft is focusing on remote work and hybrid work scenarios. Teams, SharePoint, and other services are transforming to become ready for the new era of work. With a touch of Virtual Reality, our digital workplaces are going to change to something new, and I hope that it will be easier to use for everyone (not only for tech people).
Ignite started with the huge announcement – Microsoft Loop Loop is a set of components based on the Fluid framework. It will provide real-time collaboration in Microsoft 365 tools (Team, Outlook, and OneNote). During the event, we got a lot of other announcements and some tiny little features that were easy to miss.
This is my list of most interesting news and announcements from the Ignite event. The list is divided into sections to easily navigate and read.
Table of content
- Microsoft Teams
- Microsoft Viva
- Microsoft Loop
- Context IQ
- Power Platform
- SharePoint Online and OneDrive
The feature was announced some time ago and on Ignite we got information that Shared channels are going to Preview in Q1 2022! This feature is the top one on my list for Teams. Share channels can be shared with a user or a team in our organization or with people from different org. This is a huge step forward.
Right now, we can invite a user to our team and work together. We can limit what the user can see using Private channels. This approach works quite well, but it is not so easy for everyone to understand the pros and cons of it. Every user must understand the limits of a private channel and how to do it properly.
With Shared channels, it is going to be easy and fast to share a channel and work together. No more complicated structures or dedicated teams for external users. What is even more important – no more tenant switching in Teams. You will see shared channels from other org on your main account!
Online meetings will get some useful updates.
Virtual green room – enables presenters/moderators to chat and prepare for a meeting before it starts. Preview is planned for the beginning of 2022.
Meeting controls – more options to control what attendees can see.
Co-organizer role – highly expected feature. Now you will be able to assign other users as a co-organizer. The co-organizer will have the same options as the organizer (manage meeting options, create polls, control audio settings). Available this year!
Q&A – new features dedicated for Organizers and presenters. We will be able to mark answers, filter questions, moderate questions, pin posts. Preview is coming this month!
Chat with self enables uses to send a chat message themselves. Can be useful if you want to send yourself a reminder or some info for future use. I’m not a huge fan of this. If I send a reminder to myself on chat… I will forget about it. A much better choice is to save it using note-making tools or a dedicated tool for Teams (I am testing Squarl right now – https://www.squarl.com/).
I think it would be a good function to test complex messages.
Chat density lets users customize how much information they get on chat. Compact mode puts more messages on the screen.
More reactions – more emojis, more emojis, more emojis. More than 800 3D emojis will be available in a chat message.
Delay delivery of message – we will be able to postpone the delivery of our chat message.
New search result UI – improved result page with filtering and tabs.
Time zones – You will be able to quickly check your colleague’s time zone, right from their contact card, enabling you to time your messages to get faster responses. Yay, what looks great, worth checking.
Collaborative apps are a new generation of applications with collaboration at the core. Designed and optimized for the flexibility of hybrid work inside Teams, they bring the relevant processes, data, and people together to accomplish more. New collaborative apps from partners including Atlassian, SAP, and ServiceNow enable customers to engage with these apps across chat, channels, and meetings. That’s what we can find on the Microsoft page. I will check the Atlassian app for sure.
Mesh for Teams
The mixed-reality feature is coming to Teams next year. It will allow people from different physical locations to work together in one virtual environment (meeting room). You can use your laptop, or mobile, or a VR headset.
You will be able to enable your camera, use your picture, or use a 3D avatar. The avatar can be personalized. The Avatar will use AI to express emotions (animated face and hands) to bring the feeling of real presence.
During a meeting, users will use documents, presentations, whiteboards, chats, and other tools to collaborate effectively.
I’m very curious about this feature. How will it work? What about the performance without a VR headset? How will people collaborate on mixed reality meetings? Will it be a fancy gadget or a game-changer in Teams? The key to success is implementation. Finger crossed.
Viva is live
Microsoft Viva is now generally available. All 4 modules (Topics, Learning, Connections, Insights) are ready to use. You can buy each module separately or buy Viva Suite (all modules included) at 25% cheaper.
In the next year, a new module will be available in Viva – Ally.io. This module will bring OKR methodology (objectives and key results) to the Viva family. If you buy the Viva suite you get this module for free.
- An Effective meetings experience will help meeting organizers get personalized insights and suggestions to improve their meeting habits
- Guided meditations from Headspace will be generally available in November 2021 in four additional languages: French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish.
- New manager insights and tools will help managers and team leads stay connected with team members, track outstanding tasks, and explore personal habits that impact team culture.
- Integration with Outlook, Yammer, Bing, and people profile cards
- Integration with chats and channels in Teams
- New Topic managers options – grouping topics into segments, usage analytics, streamlined topic center
- Support to crawl knowledge in French, German, and Spanish
- See assignments from integrated LMS
- Search across all the learning sources connected to Learning
- Create learning recommendations to your team and colleagues, track recommendations
- Add learning resources as a tab in Teams channels
- Dynamics language support
- Additional Microsoft 365 content sources for the feed
- Multiple instances per tenant
- Additional interactivity for dashboards cards
Loop is a dedicated application that combines Loop components created in the Fluid framework. You can interact with these components in real-time. Components can be grouped into Loop pages and pages can be grouped into Loop workspaces.
There are 3 main elements
The smallest element of work. It can be a list, a message, a document, or any other structure that you use. Components can be grouped into Loop pages but can be used in other Microsoft 365 services (for example, in Teams). Components are automatically synchronized across Microsoft 365.
A Loop page is a canvas that can contain multiple Loop components. Using pages, you can build a dedicated place for a project or a team.
A Loop workspace is a shared space for your team. It can contain pages and components.
Loop components are rolling out in preview in the coming months (2022). It promises a new way of working with extremely fast collaboration and information sharing. We do not know how it will be integrated with Teams or OneNote. What will be the base scenarios for Loop? What about the permission model? Many questions but for answers, we must wait for Preview 🙂
Context IQ is an AI module integrated with M365 services that can predict and suggest information. For example, you don’t need to search for files to attach or relevant information in SharePoint/OneDrive – Context IQ suggests information from the message context.
The first tool that will benefit from Context IQ is Microsoft Editor (when you write an email in Outlook you use the Editor).
Examples from Ignite:
- When you need to attach, insert, or share a file with colleagues – The editor suggests a relevant file based on context
- When tagging colleagues in a file using the @ symbol in a comment or email – The editor recommends people based on colleagues you currently working on a specific project
- When you try to schedule a meeting in an Outlook email – The editor will suggest available time slots from your calendar
- When you may be collaborating on a sales opportunity, and need to pull in Dynamics data – The editor will suggest related Dynamics 365 information
- When entering data or objects as you write – The editor suggests information based on context
Comments for users building apps, flows, and chatbots. You can create comments and notes in your apps/flows/bots, directly from the designers.
No more side notes or comments in code in an app. Flows will benefit from comments as well – updating or troubleshooting complex Flows is not an easy task, but with comments, you can easier find what’s going on and even check entries from other colleagues.
Power Apps pay-as-you-go with Azure subscription
You can start building your Power Apps applications and enable them for your users. Using pay-as-you-go to pay for real usage. The Power Apps per-app pay-as-you-go plan adds the flexibility for customers to pay for Power Apps based on usage—covering authenticated users of internal apps and portals. Priced at $10 per active user per month, based on the number of unique users that run the app each month.
Fantastic choice when you start or in dynamic environments. You pay more per user per month (10$ instead of 5$) but you gain flexibility.
Available in Preview
AI Builder updates
- Bring your own model – wow, huge update. Any model, built with any language, framework, or tool, can be used in Microsoft Power Platform via AI Builder.
- The Document Automation starter kit makes it easier and faster to train form processing models
- Using Power Fx, makers can now use any AI model on any control in canvas apps.
- Domain experts can train image classification models on their computers with Lobe, and export those models into AI Builder to be used in Microsoft Power Platform.
- AI Builder starter capacity is now included in select Power Apps and Power Automate license plans (250 credits for Power Apps per App license and 500 credits for Power Apps User license).
SharePoint Online and OneDrive
OneDrive: Improved sharing experience
Ability to see immediately who has access to a shared resource already. It’s going to be easier to share to Teams – you can specify the name of a recipient to send them a link in chat, or the name of a channel to send the link there.
Microsoft Lists: Board view
This view is ideal when you want to track items as they move forward in a process or workflow. Moving items through stages is as easy as dragging and dropping. It’s easy to configure which columns from your list are displayed in the cards and what order.
Microsoft Lists: Rich-text editor (RTE)
New Rich-text editor in Grid view mode. It’s a snap to click in and quickly apply formatting to items that need it. If you make a mistake, edits are quickly reversible – I can use the undo/redo buttons or keyboard shortcuts to roll back any changes I don’t want to be final.
Microsoft Lists: Fast and offline
Lists you work with now get automatically synchronized to your Windows device, if that device has the OneDrive sync app installed, and the list has 250 thousand items or fewer. You can load the Lists app and view and edit list data when you’re offline. Loading and interacting with lists just got a whole lot faster, whether you’re online or offline. Views inside synced lists NEVER get throttled, regardless of the number of items in the view, or whether those columns get indexed.
This is huge. When you work with large lists, throttling and loading issues was painful (growing browser memory consumed, freezes, etc.). A dedicated app should allow to work faster and minimize loading issues. Time to test it out!
Microsoft 365 connected templates
When we create a team using the template, the project management channels and apps, and the connected SharePoint template gets applied automatically. Critically, the pages, lists, and power platform integrations are pinned right here in Teams, and best of all these pages and lists are fully editable right in Teams.
Packaging list templates with Power Platform and rules
As you design and define custom list templates, you can now program in Power Platform app experiences and Lists rules to be pre-created for use when a new list gets created.
SharePoint admin center: Migrate SharePoint Server on-premises workflow to Power Automate flows
For SharePoint on-premises, you can now migrate SharePoint workflows directly to Power Automate. You can select workflow migration choice and run the migration task by following the wizard. All it takes is to simply provide the source site and then enter the destination. After the migration is completed, the flow owner can sign into Power Automate, navigate to the right solution, and validate the migrated flows.
I’m very excited about this one. I’m waiting to test it to see how accurate it can be 😀
Ignite introduced a lot of interesting features and updates to Microsoft 365. Collaboration and hybrid work model played the leading role. Upcoming months will bring some long-awaited features and answers for Mesh and Loop, but do not forget about tiny little features – in many cases they are game-changers!
You can find the full list of new features and updates in Microsoft Ignite Book of news – https://news.microsoft.com/ignite-november-2021-book-of-news/